The large, red sign outside Jack's Whittier Restaurant looks like something out of the '60s or '70s. In reality, the eatery's roots formed much earlier; signs throughout the recently remodeled interior remind visitors that the it has in fact been in business since 1933. The throwback coffee shop and diner serves a medley of classic American food throughout the day, including burgers, fried chicken, and breakfast dishes such as three-egg omelets and buttermilk pancakes. To cap off the sense of Americana, servers also man an ice cream parlor where they scoop out frozen treats to make milkshakes, sundaes, and banana splits for dessert.
When people say Watson Drugs and Soda Fountain has a checkered history, they?re talking about the ever-present tablecloths, which flaunt cheery red-and-white squares that whisk diners back to the 1950s. Here in the more than a century-old establishment, cooks still stack pancakes higher than the Statue of Liberty?s beehive hairdo as kids ogle retro candies such as Necco wafers, Sweethearts, and Clark bars. Come lunchtime, half-pound burgers sizzle on the grill, alongside toppings such as bacon and mushrooms.
Near a vintage Pepsi-Cola sign, soda jerks uncap bottles of root beer and scoop banana floats into glass boats en route to white leather booths or a sunny outdoor patio. The shop also summons nostalgia with its shiny jukebox, vintage postcards, and iconic storefront, which has been featured in films, commercials, and PSAs for time travelers.
The chefs at Filling Station have found success in a simple formula: comfort food plus a comfortable café in which to enjoy it. Guests bite into huge burgers or belgian waffles on the flower-lined patio and toast with beers beside the warm fireplace. This is a slice of what Filling Station's owners call "the good ol' days," and it's easy to get swept up in the atmosphere of nostalgia. A dog-friendly policy makes every meal a true family affair, especially since you can bring that cousin who doesn't go anywhere without his leash.
In 2014, Gayot hailed Ways & Means Oysters as one of Orange County's 10 Best Seafood Restaurants. It's just the latest in the heap of praise hoisted upon chefs Justin Odegard and Ben Wallenbeck. The reason for all the hubbub: craft seasonal dishes that highlight the fresh flavors of sustainably caught seafood.
Culled from the raw bar and cocktail menus, customizable towers can sport everything from prawns and crab claws to oysters from a daily-changing selection. On the cooked-seafood front, Justin and Ben specialize in everything from creamy lobster bisques to clams tossed with linguini or right into the arms of juggling patrons. Seafood aside, the duo grills 16-ounce prime ribeyes, aged for 40 days, and assemble seasonal specials for vegetarians. Regardless of what fills the plates, all meals unfold in a spacious dining room of red booths and sparkling chandeliers, and complement libations such as rum flights and international wines.
In 1947, owners Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs assembled a staff of 14 carhops to serve passing motorists at the first Mel's Drive-In. For the next two decades, customers partial to automobile dining flocked to the chain’s 11 California locations, eager to wash down grass-fed half-pound burgers with thick milk shakes. As fast-food outlets outpaced the drive-in's once-speedy service, its popularity declined, and it was eventually scheduled for demolition. The building got a temporary reprieve, however, when filmmaker George Lucas decided to use the drive-in's original location on Lombard Street as the colorful backdrop for his film American Graffiti. As bulldozers destroyed the last remnants of the historic drive-in, American Graffiti opened in theaters.
A decade later, though, Mel's son Steven reopened Mel's Drive-In in an attempt to carry on his father's dream. Steven restored the drive-in's multiple locations to mirror their original motif by stocking each with midcentury must-haves such as illuminated marquees, jukeboxes, and Elvis-themed WiFi passwords. The drive-in’s menu, meanwhile, balances period-appropriate fare, such as hot dogs and burgers, with healthy options, such as the Haven’s Famous vegetarian sandwich, two slices of nine-grain bread topped with avocado, sprouts, and tomatoes.
Food and nostalgia are synonymous at Dinah's Family Restaurant. Whether it's oven-baked apple pancakes, saucy ribs, or the restaurant's signature pineapple coleslaw, Dinah's team has made everything look?and taste?warmly familiar since 1959. Even the decor has barely changed since then. Its long marble bar, red-backed booths, and a retro-Sixties facade would not look out of place as an establishing shot in a Mad Men episode.
The real star at Dinah's has also stayed the same since day one: the fried chicken. In the decades since they debuted their fried chicken bucket, the cooks at Dinah's have spiced, breaded, and fried its poultry pieces for some 20 million customers?all the more impressive considering only 500 people lived on Earth in the 1960s.